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Heavenly Bodies: The Realms of 'La estrella de Sevilla.'

Frederick A. de Armas, ed. Lewisburg and London: Bucknell University Press, Associated University Presses, 1996. 294 pp. $45. ISBN: n.a.

Although symposia and conferences devoted to a single literary text are a staple in Anglo-American and comparative studies, the practice has until recently been under-explored and little-used in Hispanic studies. The play considered here, La estrella de Sevilla (16237), is the result of one such venture, a symposium that was held at Pennsylvania State University in 1992.

La estrella would seem at first glance to be a rather odd choice for its own international symposium, since its canonical status within Spanish Golden Age drama is scarcely secure, as several of the contributors mention and as the volume's editor notes in his preface (7); even its authorship is disputed, with most scholars attributing it to Lope de Vega, but some (including two authors in this volume) dissenting. Yet it is precisely such controversies that prompted the 1992 symposium and that motivated one of the collections sections, on "Canonicity," as well as several essays dealing with the play's problematic authorship.

The range of critical and theoretical approaches exemplified by the volume's essays is extensive, although most of the contributions could be classified broadly, and not very usefully, as poststructuralist. In the majority are studies that examine La estrella in light of political theory and the contemporaneous political situation. A number of contributors focus on the play's most obvious political subtext: the turbulent reign of King Philip IV, during the first years of which La estrella premiered. For example, the volume's editor, de Armas, educes a number of parallels between Philip and the plays medieval monarch, Sancho IV, in the service of a convincing argument that such analogies amount to a veiled critique of Philip for his amorous libertinage and for his possible complicity in the murder of a critic of his amorous adventuring. Several authors (Burton, Casa, McKendrick, Sturm, Heiple, de Armas) examine the play as an exemplar, more or less, of that genre beloved of medieval and Renaissance writers, the de regimine principum.

Among the other critical issues and approaches are semiotics (Cruz), feminism (Cruz, Mandrell, Bergmann), and Orientaliasm (Connor). In addition, Stoll examines issues related to the play's staging and to dramatic performance in general. Hernandez Valcarcel and Lopez-Vazquez take up the issue of the play's authorship, the former voting for probable authorship by Lope; the latter for Andres de Claramonte. Several contributors (Fischer, Bergmann, Burke, Oriel, and Rivers) analyze the inscription of writing in the play.

The volume's essays are of uneven quality; at least a couple have been recycled from their authors' previous publications, and some merely glance at the play in question, situating their major focus instead on issues of more general concern to Golden Age drama. Nonetheless, a number of the contributions are very strong, among them Elias Rivers's seminal study (one of the recycles, but never mind in this case - the author's points bear repeating) of the play's inscription of writing and orality as that issue relates to the honor system itself. Taken as a whole (and with some traditional exceptions), the essays honorably represent the ongoing effort to bring Hispanic studies abreast of the most current trends in literary and cultural theory. I should also note that both the "Works Cited" and the "Index" cover all the essays - something of a rarity in essay collections and a welcome asset to busy scholars. With reservations, I would recommend the volume to those interested in Spanish Golden Age drama and/or in the specific theoretical issues raised by the play.

BARBARA E. KURTZ Illinois State University
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Author:Kurtz, Barbara E.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1998
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